Obama and the media: a breakdown on both sides

President Obama takes the cake in complaining about the failure of the media to hold politicians accountable.

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After all, his administration has done all it can to stonewall and deceive the media.

On Monday, he made extensive remarks at a Washington, D.C. event for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting about the responsibilities of journalists. His comments, given his record of trying to thwart the media, were remarkable.

“Real people depend on you to uncover the truth,” he declared. “We should be held accountable…What we’re seeing right now does corrode our democracy and our society. When our elected officials and political campaigns become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what is true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make decisions on behalf of future generations.”

“The electorate… would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when the politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises that they can’t keep,” Obama said. “And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them… When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism. ”

Though he may well have intended his remarks to be a dig at media coverage of Donald Trump, Obama was a very strange messenger given his misstatements and resistance to media oversight.

After all, it was Obama who made the infamous comment about his Affordable Care Act: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.  If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.  The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.”

And it’s under the Obama administration that the government has set a dismal record of failing to provide information in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, many from journalists. People who have asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, a record, according to an Associated Press investigation.

In some FOIA cases, usually after news organizations filed expensive federal lawsuits, the Obama administration found tens of thousands of pages after it previously said it couldn’t find any, the AP said. The website Gawker, for example, sued the State Department in 2015 when it said it couldn’t find any emails an aide to Hillary Clinton and former deputy assistant secretary of state, had sent to reporters. It was only after the lawsuit was filed that the State Department found 90,000 documents about correspondence between the aide and reporters.

Since Obama became president, his administration has pursued an aggressive war against whistleblowers and leakers to the media, with more prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act than under all previous presidents combined.

And to top it all off, Obama proudly proclaimed in his Toner Prize remarks, “…something I’m really proud of is the fact that, if you go back and see what I said in 2007 and you see what I did, they match up,” a comment that, for some unexplainable reason, was met with applause by the fawning media in attendance.

Were they not aware of all the broken promises documented on the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.

Maybe not. Maybe the mainstream media have been too busy serving as cheerleaders or protectors of the administration.

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Even the Washington Post story about his remarks at the Toner event , written by a reporter who covers the White House, was little more than a 510 word press release relaying Obama’s speech verbatim, devoid of any context.

Maybe they were busy writing impactful stories about the Kardashians, or a man dressed as a shark in Katy Perry’s Super Bowl half-time performance, or a 1000 word story about a campaign worker manhandling a Breitbart reporter at a Donald Trump event.

 

 

 

 

 

A different world: the unintended consequences of China’s one-child policy

The deaths of female babies by drowning, sex-selective abortion, malnutrition, denial of health care and abandonment.

These are some of the grim consequences of China’s one-child policy.

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In 2012, CNN reported that Feng Jianmei, 22, was detained and coerced into having an abortion in the seventh month of her pregnancy, according to her husband.

But they aren’t the only ones.

China, once fixated on explosive population growth and worried about the economy’s ability to cope with it, now has a new problem, too sharp a drop in birth rates and too many old people.

The ramifications for China and the rest of the world could be severe.

In 1979, Liang Zhongtang, a Chinese economist and demographer, insisted that the one-child policy would be a “terrible tragedy” that would turn China into a “breathless, lifeless society without a future,” but he was ignored.

In 1980, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, fearfully contemplating a population of one billion, initiated a one-child policy.

OneChildPoster

The rigorous enforcement of the policy quickly got ugly, with a particularly devastating impact on female babies, as families favored having male children.

“Chinese women’s reproduction is utilized as a feature of socialist modernization, a sacrifice for the good of the state,” said Winter Wall, founder and Managing Member at W3 Global Consulting in Denver, CO. “Reproductive rights in Chinese society have been co-opted by the government as a component of a broader push towards socialist modernization.”

While most Americans think of China in terms of the cheek-to-jowl masses of people crowded into Bejing, there’s much more to the story.

NPR reported this past year on the consequences of the one-child policy in China’s Rudong County in Jiangsu province.

The county launched a family planning pilot program in the 1960s. “Having a second child wasn’t allowed, so we had to work on (pregnant women) and persuade them to have an abortion,” Chen Jieru, the Communist Party secretary of a village at the time, told NPR.

The result? The policy, in combination with an exodus of young people to cities for better opportunities, has left the county’s young population shriveled while the elderly population has exploded.

The increasing number of the elderly is soon going to be a problem across China. There are now five workers to each retiree, but in a little more than 20 years that is projected to shift to 1.6 workers to every one retiree. “It spells shrunken tax coffers, reduced consumer spending and all-around diminished productivity,” said Mei Fong in her recently issued book, “One Child – the story of China’s most radical experiment.”

A senior Chinese economist, Liu Mingkang, speaking at the Asia Global Dialogue in 2012, said China’s population growth will end as soon as 2020 when its population will peak at 1.6 billion.

Youhua Chen, a demographer at China’s Nanjing University, has also gained some notoriety by warning about a sharp drop ahead for China’s population. The decline will be accompanied by soaring health care and pension costs, and collapsing real estate markets, he has warned.

Prof. Chen has predicted that China’s population will peak at about 1.4 billion and then fall precipitously to 500 million. His graph is below.

GraphImage

Title: Figure 1   Estimated China Population Growth 1950-2100   (Black line): Low (Plan, Program, Prospects…)   (Pink line): Medium (Plan, Program, Prospects…)   (Blue line):  High (Plan, Program, Prospects)   Graph courtesy of Mei Fong, Fellow, New America                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

If Prof. Chen is right, this means lots of problems.

“These problems will compromise economic development, strain social harmony, and place the traditional Chinese family structure under severe pressure; in fact, they could shake Chinese civilization to its very foundations,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy with the American Enterprise Institute.

There are already signs of a slowing Chinese economy that will be exacerbated by the aging of the population. China’s economy is “like a speeding bicycle that has to keep going just to keep from falling over, “ said the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a report on China’s Long March to Retirement Reform.

Gordon G. Chang, writing in World Affairs, has posited that the decline in China’s population will also exacerbate China’s economic challenges, particularly its competition with India.

China has recently loosened the one-child restrictions, but it hasn’t resulted in a baby boom. So the prediction still holds that sometime in the next 10 years, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous state at some point before 2025, Chang says, and India will keep growing while China declines. India’s India’s workforce will pass China’s by 2030, according to the UN.

“When you see a country’s population decline, the country will definitely degrade into a second-rate one,” said Yao Yang, an economist with Peking University’s China Center for Economic Research.

In light of all this, it’s India, not China, that could end up dominating the middle of this century.

That will change things…a lot.

The Donald, Melania, Ted and Heidi show

It’s all theater, folks.

An anti-Trump Political Action Committee that has raised only about $20,000 runs an ad on social media targeted at Mormon voters in Utah….and all hell breaks loose.

Ahh, the power of social media and the political value of feigned indignation.

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The ad (above) featured Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, posing in the nude for GQ Magazine in 2000. It was posted by the Make America Awesome PAC, founded in 2015 by Liz Mair, a Republican-leaning political strategist. Its contributions have come from a small group, including Donald Gayhardt CEO of payday lender Tiger Financial Management/Speedy Cash, Virginia Postrel, a Libertarian political and cultural writer, and Donald Sherwood, a former Republican Congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district.

What made it all fascinating is how Trump and Cruz took advantage of the situation by publicly exchanging schoolyard taunts.

Knowing how to maximize attention, Trump Tweeted:

Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

and

“Wow @SenTedCruz, that is some low level ad you did using a picture of Melania in a G.Q. shoot. Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”

(One theory is that Trump was referring to a 2005 incident when a depressed Heidi Cruz was observed sitting next to an expressway with her head in her hands. But admit it, ladies. You’d want to sit on a curb and cry if you were married to Ted, too, wouldn’t you?)

Cruz responded with this Tweet:

“Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought. #classless

Then Trump Tweeted:

“Lyin’ Ted Cruz denied that he had anything to do with the G.Q. model photo post of Melania. That’s why we call him Lyin’ Ted!”

Not to be left out, Liz Mair followed up with a Tweet of her own:

“Hi Donald, I know you’re really upset about that ad, but it was Make America Awesome’s, not Ted Cruz’s.”

And then late Wednesday night, Trump kept the dispute alive and visible with another incendiary Tweet and photo:

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My goodness. How crass can you be?

The fact is, however, the initial ad would have quickly sunk into oblivion if Trump and Cruz had not exploited it to their perceived advantage.

Pundits have been fulminating about this controversy, focusing on the coarseness of the Mair ad and the candidates’ trigger-finger responses. The major media attacked Mair’s ad for “slut-shaming” Melania Trump and called out Donald Trump for throwing a Trumpertantrum.

But the pundits have completely missed the point.

Its all theater, folks, and we’re all suckers for being drawn into the attention-grabbing drama that either candidate could have stopped at any time. The candidates are the actors preparing themselves for the greatest acting job in the world.

As Ronald Reagan said, “For years, I’ve heard the question: “How could an actor be president?” I’ve sometimes wondered how you could be president and not be an actor.”

 

 

Marijuana: Oregon’s new lottery

Oregon government has found a new addiction – marijuana taxes.

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Oregon collected $3.48 million in marijuana taxes in January 2016, the first month of taxing legal recreational marijuana. Based on these returns, the future looks bright for Oregon’s budget.

Economics consulting firm ECONorthwest initially projected the state would see $38.5 million in marijuana tax revenue in 2016. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, projected less. But if Oregon sales for the rest of the year stay on the current trajectory, Oregon will collect $41.76 million in 2016, the Bend Bulletin figures.

“While state officials were quick to caution that it will take time to get an accurate view of the money coming in through marijuana sales, the early estimate shows pot may be a bigger boon than initially thought for Oregon’s schools and police, which receive a portion of tax revenue,” the Bulletin said.

Under Ballot Measure 91, revenue after costs will be divided as follows: 40 percent to the Common School Fund; 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services; 15 percent to state police; 10 percent each to cities and counties; 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

What a windfall is coming their way.

And soon enough, just as has happened with the State lottery, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Legislature will find themselves looking for ways to generate more marijuana money.

Lottery money has already turned the state into an addict, as Oregon’s lottery take has gone from $87.8 million in FY86 to $1.12 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, an increase of 6.1 percent over fiscal year 2014. The Lottery is a very big business.

Going forward, the Lottery is working hard to expand its audience and revenues with development of new games, platforms, and venues in order to attract more diverse demographic groups.

The lure of raking in lottery dollars without having to raise taxes has long been appealing to politicians anxious to satiate government’s insatiable thirst for revenue. In fact, the lottery is often referred to as a “voluntary tax”, though behavioral research calls the “voluntary” part into question.

Whatever it’s called, the state always wants more of it, just as it will with marijuana taxes. You can count on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much for free speech: the left and Chicago’s anti-Trump demonstrations

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A Trump supporter (R), confronts a demonstrator after Donald Trump canceled his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago on March 11, 2016

With all the hyperventilating by major media about the chaos that forced cancellation of Donald Trump’s planned March 11 event in Chicago, there’s been little mention of the role left-wing organizations played in fomenting and supporting the clashes with the goal of shutting down the event.

Not only that, but an analysis of news coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC found that the protesters escaped nearly all blame. By a 15-to-1 margin, the networks blamed Trump, not the leftist protesters, for the campaign violence.

“The left’s coercive tactics aimed at shutting down speech with which they disagree are appalling and un-American, and they would be shocking were they not so commonly employed; Trump didn’t start that fire,” James Taranto wrote today,

Ignored by most of the media, anti-Trump progressives played a major role in spurring the turmoil.

Prior to the event, left-leaning activist groups and individuals aggressively recruited protesters to obstruct it.  Typical was a prominent Chicago activist, Ja’Mal Green, who posted on his Facebook page, “Everyone, get your tickets to this. We’re all going in!!!! ‪#‎SHUTDOWN”. (Not everybody on Facebook agreed with his tactics. One person commented, “…the ” shutdown” caused many fence sitters to jump into the Trump camp. Stifling freedom of speech for another while gloating over your free speech stand makes no sense.”)

After cancellation of the Trump event, an e-mail from MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy organization, highlighted “the support we provided students in Chicago last night by printing signs and a banner and recruiting MoveOn.org members to join their peaceful protest.”

“We’ll support MoveOn.org members to call out and nonviolently protest Trump’s racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, and violent behavior — and show the world that America rejects Trump’s hate,” the email read. “And to keep it going, we’re counting on you to donate whatever you can to cover the costs of everything involved — the organizers, signs, online recruitment ads, training, and more.”

Another e-mail from ThinkProgress.org, part of the Center for American Progress, founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, was headlined “How Activists Mobilized to Shut Down Trump in Chicago”.

The e-mail noted approvingly that a student in the U.S. illegally had started a petition on MoveOn.org calling on the school to cancel the event, claiming that Trump’s visit was a “standards and safety issue” and that “I, and other students…are in direct danger.”

Then there’s People for Bernie Sanders, co-founded by Charles Lenchner, who was previously a founder of Ready for Warren, and Winnie Wong, a founding organizer of Occupy Wall Street who also helped launch Ready For Warren.

After cancellation of Trump’s Chicago event, the organization joyfully tweeted, “Remember the ‪#TrumpRally wasn’t just luck. It took organizers from dozens of organizations and thousands of people to pull off. Great work.” (Not all recipients of the tweet were quite as excited. One commenter said, “This is organized vigilantes against Trump/capitalism…”)

I’m not excusing Trump for his rhetoric, but reporters and the media need to do their job and report fully on the campaigns and the players, not just bury us in daily horse race stories, visuals without context and opinions masquerading as news. We’d all be better educated voters if they did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J’accuse …! Hillary’s misdirected Flint indictments

For Hillary, it’s simple enough. Blame the whole Flint water fiasco on Republican Governor Rick Snyder and environmental racism.

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Hillary’s not interested in dealing with facts or educating the public. Her goal is to harness public anger to her political advantage.

But in doing so, Hillary’s been fundamentally dishonest.

Consider:

  • In the spring of 2014, it wasn’t the governor, but Flint’s Emergency Manager, who decided to switch the city’s water supply from the Detroit water system’s Lake Huron water to the Flint River.
  • Although the Detroit water supply contained a low-cost corrosion inhibitor preventing lead from household pipes from contaminating the water, no inhibitor was added to the Flint River water. This sin of omission was committed by some water management worker(s), not the Emergency Manager or Gov. Snyder.
  • It was in response to a request from Lee Anne Walters, a Flint mother who had determined her child had lead poisoning, that the initial testing took place. Walters appealed to a Virginia Tech University team led by Prof. Marc Edwards to sample and test the water at her home.
  • The team found lead levels that on average contained over 2,000 parts per billion (ppb) of lead—more than 130 times the EPA’s maximum allowable limit of 15 ppb.
  • The Virginia Tech team gave the results, which showed high lead levels, to a Region 5 EPA employee, Miguel Del Toral.
  • Del Toral identified potential problems with Flint’s drinking water. In June 2015, he sent upstairs an internal memo summarizing the looming lead contamination problem, noting that Flint residents were not being protected by federal law.
  • Region 5 of the EPA, in the face of this potentially devastating water quality news, took no action and did not notify Flint residents. EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman told The Detroit News she sought a legal opinion on whether the EPA could force action, but it wasn’t completed until November.
  • But meanwhile, at the request of some Flint residents, the Va. Tech team did a more comprehensive analysis of water samples in the city and found sky-high level of lead contamination.
  • Still, as late as July 2015, after Miguel Del Toral’s memo was leaked by the American Civil Liberties Union, it was Brad Wurfel, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, not Gov. Snyder, who brushed off the memo and assured Flint residents all was safe. “…anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax,” Wurfel said. “It does not look like there is any broad problem with the water supply freeing up lead as it goes to homes.”
  • Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint and Genesee County in January 2016 as a result of the contaminated drinking water crisis.

“It just makes me so angry that we as a society have spent the money and passed laws that say we want clean water,” Virginia Tech’s Prof. Edwards said in a Feb. 29, 2016 CNN interview. “We have civil servants out there who are supposed to be protecting us and the laws are not being followed. None of us are safe in this country until we get an Environmental Protection Agency, state primacy agencies and water utilities committed to following existing laws.”

So how about telling the truth for a change, Hillary.

 

 

 

 

 

The language police: a cautionary tale

T. Hayden Barnes knows what it’s like to be a victim of the language police. His is a cautionary tale for the rest of us.

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T. Hayden Barnes

It began a long, long time ago. In March 2007, Valdosta State University (VSU) in Valdosta, Georgia, announced plans to spend $30 million to build two parking decks for 2000 vehicles on campus.

On April 19, Barnes wrote a thoughtful letter to the Editor of the VSU ‘Spectator’ newspaper questioning the wisdom of the decision to build “two large, expensive and ugly” parking decks and calling on the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association to press VSU’s president, Ronald M. Zaccari for answers on numerous questions associated with the plan.

On April 26, Barnes wrote to Zaccari asking for an exemption from the proposed $100 student fee to finance construction of the garages. In return he would contribute $100 to an environmental cause on campus. Attached to his appeal was a flyer replicating a posting on his Facebook page depicting the “Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage”, a sarcastic reference to concerns Zaccari had expressed in a meeting about his “legacy” as VSU’s president.

Flyer

Reaction was swift. Seizing upon the tragic school shootings at Virginia Tech University as a pretext, Zaccari took steps to brand Barnes as a “danger” because of his non-violent speech activities.

On May 7, Zaccari wrote to Barnes asserting that because of his behavior and the flyer he was “a clear and present danger” to the university and had been administratively withdrawn from the school.

Barnes appealed to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. “I hope for redress, so as not to materially interfere with my constitutional rights to due process…,” he said.

Barnes sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit educational foundation supporting due process and freedom of expression.

In January 2008, Barnes, in cooperation with FIRE, filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against VSU, Zaccari and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

The Board of Regents reversed Barnes’ expulsion, but the lawsuit went forward.

Three years later…..

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia rules in Barnes’ favor. The Board of Regents appealed.

Eight years later…..

On July 23, 2015, more than eight years after his expulsion, Barnes’ lawsuit against VSU and former VSU president Ronald Zaccari concluded with the announcement of a final $900,000 settlement.

“It has been an epic journey,” said Barnes.

 

P.S. – Barnes ended up graduating from Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, GA.